Q and A with Charlie Kimball
CHARLIE KIMBALL: Good morning, Arni, or afternoon back there.
MODERATOR: Charlie drives the No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Honda and is ranked sixth in IZOD IndyCar Series points after finishing a season-best fourth at Barber Motorsports Park on April 7. He'll make his third start on the streets of Long Beach this weekend, which is essentially a home race for Charlie as he's from Camarillo, California.
Before we talk about Long Beach, let's talk about the race weekend at Barber. It was a very strong weekend for the entire No. 83 team. You led a practice session. Qualified for your first Firestone Fast Six, led laps in the race and scored your first top five of the season.
CHARLIE KIMBALL: I think that's an indication of the progress that the whole team has made over the winter. We went away after Fontana last year and did a really intensive self‑evaluation from everybody on the team: From driver, to management, to engineering, to mechanics. And we all came up with ideas and started to put those in practice. We went testing before the Christmas break, and then coming out of Christmas and coming out of the winter, when we went to the open test at Barber, we went with a pretty decent car and continued to make it better, so that the momentum carrying from Barber into Long Beach is better than it's ever been.
We're really proud of the progress we've made as a team, and I think that there's no reason why we can't continue to build positive results through the rest of the season.
Q. You mentioned the momentum your team started at Barber. How do you carry the momentum from the Barber weekend into the Long Beach weekend? And does the way you've started the season change the outlook for the weekend in terms of scoring a podium and maybe even your first win?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: I think as far as carrying the momentum, you have to forget about the result a little bit. You have to take the positives, learn from the mistakes, and move forward. The first practice at Long Beach, anything we did at Barber is irrelevant, as far as where we are on the timesheet. We have to take that, forget that and move forward. But also understand when we get, hopefully, into the Fast Six again in qualifying and racing up front when we learn from the strategy and weaknesses we've shown at Barber. I've learned about how to race up front a little bit better. So I think you take those lessons, remember them, and apply them, and that's how you build that momentum. You get comfortable up there. You're used to being up there. When you're running up front, it's almost a little easier. I mean, it's harder. The speeds are harder, and the lap times harder to maintain. But as far as knowing the people that are around you and understanding the risks everyone's taking, it's maybe a little easier.
Q. Chip Ganassi Racing was a four‑car team last year and it's reduced to three cars this year. Can you talk about the relationship between Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti this year? Does that affect the way you guys have worked together this year?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: I think one thing I've noticed in the testing and then in the first two rounds of the season is that with three inputs from drivers, you have a better opportunity to learn, and learn from what they're doing car‑wise, driving‑wise, engineering‑wise. And so we're able to collate that data. Because between sessions, if you have four‑car data to look at or only three‑car data, you have the same amount of time,
So to be able to pull highlights from Scott and from Dario, and have a little more time to talk to them individually, the communication has been a little easier definitely starting the season. I think the more that the 83 team is able to run up front, the more we're contributing back to the 9 and 10 cars.
To be fair, I'm really excited about the addition of Ryan Briscoe coming on board in the 8 car for the Indy 500 in the month of May. To have somebody of that caliber, to have last year's pole sitter, the guy who won the race, and the guy who finished second last year to learn from, it's definitely ‑‑ Chip Ganassi has built a very strong stable heading into the Month of May.
Q. I've done some interviewing of some doctors about injuries and such. They say that injured drivers sometimes, for instance Dr. Jerry Punch over at NASCAR, says sometimes they do better than when they're not injured. Of course, you have kind of a unique situation with your whole situation (as a diabetic). Do you think sometimes that gives you an advantage because you're so careful with what you have to do?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: I do think that my diabetes management has forced me to be more aware of my physical preparation, more aware of my nutrition, more aware of the importance of training. And build a routine that medically I can defend when there are distractions. So I'm able to mentally and physically prepare better for the races.
So I do think in that way I've been able to turn it into an advantage. I don't think it slows me down or gets in the way of what I do in the cockpit at all. Yes, I think it is an advantage. But I also think that the competitive aspect in me will find whatever it is to try to turn that into an advantage.
When I broke my hand last year, it was all about how quickly I could get back in the car and overcome those challenges.
Q. As far as the different types of tracks that IndyCar does, going into another street course, do you have any preference over the street course, the ovals, you know, anything that you like better?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: I was going to say that my favorite track would be the street circuit in Toronto because I scored my first INDYCAR podium there last year. But having the top five at Barber and qualifying in the Top 5 and having led laps at Indy 500, I'd say an oval is right up there as well.
I think that's one of the things about the IZOD IndyCar Series is the diversity that we have to work on to be successful and be competitive across the board. So as far as favorite tracks, I love racing at the Long Beach Grand Prix. It's close to home for me, so I'll have a full grandstand of 60 or 70 family and friends supporting me. That always means a lot to be able to go out and do my best for everyone that's come down to see me race.
Q. First, congrats on your great finish at Barber this past weekend. My question for you today is going into Long Beach how do you plan to carry that momentum with you from this past weekend?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: Well, I think the hardest part of having such a good result is to move forward. To almost forget about it, move forward, and focus on what went well and what we can improve and then apply that. Because, as I said earlier, when we get on track at Long Beach, anything we did at Barber doesn't count anymore. Those points are in the bank. They're in my championship total, but that doesn't affect anything as far as how I approach this weekend.
So we really ‑‑ looking back at St. Petersburg, I think that with that being a street race our result didn't necessarily equal our performance. We had a quicker car than 12th. And I think we were close to qualifying in the top 12 and moving and advancing to the second round.
So if we can do that here at Long Beach, then we can apply what we learned at Barber, strategy‑wise and pit stop‑wise, and pace‑wise to the race Sunday at Long Beach. You sort of take lessons, but also understand that the result from Barber builds momentum, but isn't worth anything when we start on track on Friday.
Q. You mentioned with the reduction of Ganassi from a 4‑car to a 3‑car outfit. That you have more time to talk to Dario, talk to Scott and learn from them. What is some of the best advice or some of the best things you've learned from them being such great drivers and your time with the team with them?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: Well, I think the biggest things I've learned have not been about a certain corner or a certain racetrack. It's more about how to work with the team and how much effort to put in and how that be repaid by the crew members and by the mechanics. It's more about managing the team and working with all of the tools that are available to maximize what options we have.
Because I think that's what Chip Ganassi Racing does best. It's got great people with all the tools that we need to go in, and sometimes you don't know how best to use those tools. And watching Scott and Dario, they are masters at making the most of whatever the situation is.
Q. Seems like you're off to a pretty good start this year. What do you attribute that to?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: I think that the momentum starting the season is really carried from last year. We had such a good result in July at Toronto that that was coming off really good races at Sao Paulo at the Indy 500, at Detroit. We learned a lot through the later part of June and then had a great result in July. That momentum, even with breaking my hand and having to miss the Mid‑Ohio race, carried through.
We should have had a top 5 or top 8 at Sonoma. We are looking good for a podium at Baltimore until we had a mechanical. And to finish the year out with a top 10 in Fontana in another 500 mile race like that carried us into the winter with enthusiasm to go work on areas that we needed to improve. So we've been able to look at those areas, work on them, and as a team we've really pulled together and understood the expectation coming into the season.
It's my third year. I'm not a rookie. I'm not a sophomore anymore. We have the experience as a group. We have the capability to run up front. So it's time we did that. And I think Barber proved that we can run up front and we need to do that consistently now.
Q. I know you're throwing out the first pitch tonight at Dodger Stadium. So first could you talk about the experience of getting to achieve a life‑long dream of throwing out the first pitch? Specifically, do you have any other special plans or appearances before the race in LA or in Ventura County?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: Well, I think throwing out the first pitch at Dodger stadium is ‑‑‑ you talk about it being a life-long dream. I think for not just me as a life‑long Dodger fan and a fan of the organization and its history, but to be able to do it in the 50th Anniversary of Dodger Stadium and Chavez Ravine.
I've been going to Dodger games since I was 8 or 9. It's one of my favorite places to take in a ballgame. To be able to go out and throw out the ceremonial first pitch, especially this year with the new ownership group, with Magic Johnson being on board and such a strong bullpen and Clayton Kershaw, future Hall of Famer I'm sure and former Cy Young Award winner pitching. It's just going to be an incredible experience.
I think I'm more nervous about getting the ball to home plate tonight than any nerves I'll feel this weekend (in the car). It's going to be quite an experience, and one that I hope to soak in as much as possible.
To be able to do that is just incredible. I never thought when I first sat in a racing go‑kart that one day I'd be throwing out the first pitch at Dodger Stadium as an IZOD IndyCar Series driver. So to be able to do that is really a dream come true.
So heading into Long Beach, we have a lot of family and friends coming down, so I'm looking forward to the opportunity to have dinner with them Friday and Saturday night and catch up. Because being based in Indianapolis now, I don't get to see them nearly as much as I'd like to. It's nice to be able to touch base with them and see what's going on in their lives.
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